Use debate as teachable moment, parenting expert says

WASHINGTON — The presidential race might be one of the most negative and nasty campaigns in modern U.S. history, with candidates being attacked as criminals, racists, sexists and liars. And even if parents don't like it, children are being exposed to it in school, on television and online.

Parenting expert Stacy Skelly said parents need to look for teachable moments in this year's presidential election.

"It actually gives you a chance to say, 'Here is what is happening in the world around you, and here is how you can think about it,'" said Skelly, who works for educational research think tank Pearson. "Explain the process instead of focusing on some of the nastiness we've been hearing."

Skelly said the first presidential debate can also be an opportunity to talk about bullying, and what behaviors are and are not acceptable.

Skelly said that among the questions that parents could consider asking their children when politics turn negative are, "Is that the way you want to be treated?" or, "What would you do if you saw someone being treated poorly?"

She said parents can play a role in raising the next generation of voters.

Skelly said it's important not to try to shield children from politics, but to discuss the policies of political parties and the importance of voting.